Originally we had planned to meet in Montesano, Washington on Friday morning, however, because of a paving project on the Wynoochee Road from Montesano to Wynoochee Lake, the location of the meet up was changed to the Taylor Towne restaurant just South of Shelton.
Attending was Ray from Edgewood (driving his Toyota 4Runner), Kevin (riding with Ray), John in his Jeep YJ Wrangler, Dick (riding with John) and Randy from Shelton (riding with me in my Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser).
Our goals for the this rainy spring day were to:
- Locate the train wreckage from the 1961 film titled “Ring of Fire”. During the filming of the movie they set an old railroad trestle and some passenger rail cars on fire and dropped them into the canyon. (See Brians site at Georgia-Pacific No. 9 and Ring of Fire Wreck Site for a great write up of the details of the movie and the wreckage site.)
- Visit the Wynoochee Dam and Lake.
- Visit the High Steel Bridge over the Skokomish River.
I’ll make my best guess on the direction of where we traveled throughout the day. I made as many notes as possible while driving (safely of course). The roads we traveled consisted of a mix of Simpson Timber (recently renamed as the Green Diamond Resource Company), Forest Service, and County roads. Some roads were marked well, others were not. Road names were pulled from either road signs/marking, the forest service map, or my GPS. Most of the area is consisted of clear cuts and 2nd or 3rd growth forest of various ages.
After breakfast, we headed North a short distance on US101 and headed West on the Shelton-Matlock Road through Dayton and into Matlock. From Matlock, we followed the Matlock-Deckerville Rd. until it reached the Deckerville Rd. where we continued West until we reached the Kelley Rd. where we headed North.
From the Kelley Rd., we turned left on Simpson Rd. #600, which on my GPS showed up as FR2153, however the Forest Service map shows it as FR2260. The road wound around through several drainages (including the Canyon River and the West Fork of the Satsop River) until reaching the Wynoochee Rd.
From the Wynoochee Rd, we headed North a short distance and turned left on Simpson Rd. D600 toward the train wreckage. This is a gated road but luckily, the gate was open the day we visited. We eventually came to a windfall across the road that had to be removed. I got my exercise for the day by chopping off the end of the tree. We all moved the remaining debris so we could get the vehicles through.
Once we removed the tree from the road, Ray’s 4Runner wouldn’t start. It ended up being a case of a loose and stripped out battery terminal. So after a quick repair we were on the road again. It wasn’t long after the downed tree that Randy realized that we had gone too far on the road, so we turned around. We ended up parking right next to the downed tree to access the rail to the train wreckage. In case anybody is interested, the coordinates of the area we parked are 47° 19′ 48″ N, 123° 38′ 35″ W.
It was only a short hike to the overlook into the Wynoochee River canyon below. From the lip of the canyon, we walked down a short distance (aided by a rope already in place) to a ledge so we could see the railroad wreckage below. There was a another rope that led down into the canyon. Kevin made the hike down to the railroad car and was able to poke his head inside. None of the others (including myself), had a strong enough desire venture down there. It looked pretty steep from where we stood. Kevin said only the first 40 feet was steep and the rest of the way was ok. And the rope down to the river was in good shape. After a few pictures we headed back to our vehicles and back to the Wynoochee Rd.
Once back on the Wynoochee Rd. (it eventually becomes FR22), we passed the old site of Camp Grisdale, Washington, the location of the last operating logging camp in the lower 48 states. Apparently there isn’t much left of the site so we continued on.
Just before Wynoochee Lake, there is an intersection of Forest Service roads. We headed north on FR2270 as it follows the east side of Wynoochee Lake. We were only able to drive to FR200 (a short distance past the head of the lake) because of snow. Believe it not, the elevation was only 835 feet and the road was snowed in.
From the head of the lake, we made an attempt to reach the fish collection site just below the Wynoochee Dam, but again, our path was blocked by a windfall. After a short stop at the Wynoochee Dam, we backtracked the way we came in. If the roads were snow free, one could drive FR23 from the Wynoochee, past Spider Lake and into the Skokomish River area (see Day 3 of Olympic Peninsula Backroad Adventures).
After we made our back to Matlock and a quick stop in the Matlock store, we turned left on the Dayton Airport Rd. (past the Shelton Prison) and another left on the Eells Hill Rd. which dropped us near the Shelton Trout Hatchery off Vance Creek in the Skokomish River Valley.
We headed upriver on the Skokomish Valley Rd. The road splits and the right fork becomes FR23. A short distance, we truined right on FR2340 towards the Skokomish High Steel Bridge. Along the way, we passed West Lake on the right side of the road.
The Skokomish High Steel Bridge is a very impressive site to visit. The bridge crosses a deep canyon of the South Fork of the Skokomish River far down below. It was originally an old railroad trestle that was built in 1929 and was later converted into a single lane bridge for vehicle traffic. The river below is over 400 feet down, making it one of the highest bridges in the United States. (Again, Brian has some great information about this area on his site at Simpson Timber Company Railroad.
After our visit at the High Steel Bridge, we attempted to continue on FR2340 and make the loop back to FR23 and back to Brown Creek, but we found the road gated at what was listed as N. Cushman Ridge Dr. From what we could tell from the GPS, we were on the ridge overlooking the West (or South) shore of Lake Cushman. This appeared to be a private gated community (or future community). Unfortunate for us, no views of Lake Cushman were to be had from our vantage point. On the way out, we made several additional attempts to view the lake via side roads with no luck.
From anywhere in the South Puget Sound region, this area is a relatively short drive to be able to explore a such a large area via logging roads. This was only my second time in the area, however I will be back to explore more of it once the snow melts.
You can view all of the photos I took on this trip at Wynoochee-Skokomish Adventure Photos on my Flickr page.